When award-winning author Angela Slatter pops in, you know you’re in for some straight-talking about writing. And so it was during the recent Industry Insider event in my Write With Allison Tait (WWAT) community, when we discussed everything from her writing process, to her start in ‘chick lit’ and the secrets of writing short stories.
As with all good Q&A sessions, everyone walked away with a lot of food for thought – including me.
Over the years, between this blog, the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast, the Your Kid’s Next Read podcast, guest interview spots on other podcasts, guest blog posts and articles on other sites, assorted panels, events and festivals, and, now, my WWAT community, I’ve interviewed a LOT of authors.
Hundreds. Perhaps thousands even.
So when I hear something new about the process of writing, even if it’s the articulation of something I know in a new and accessible way, I take notes.
Now, I’m sharing the notes from my interview with Angela with you. Two little snippets of writing advice I think are incredibly helpful. And the fact that gates and recliners are included makes them even better.
ANGELA SLATTER ON GATES, RECLINERS AND WRITING
About Angela: Angela Slatter (also writing as A.G. Slatter) is the author of gothic fantasy novels All The Murmuring Bones and The Path of Thorns, as well as three supernatural crime novels, at least a dozen short story collections and several novellas.
She has won a World Fantasy Award, a British Fantasy Award, a Ditmar, two Australian Shadows Awards and seven Aurealis Awards. All The Murmuring Bones was shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards Book Of The Year in 2021. Angela has an MA and a PhD in creative writing, and is a highly respected teacher, editor and mentor in the writing space.
ABOUT THE GATES
In a discussion about structure, pacing and the ‘engine’ of the story:
“Your turning points and your mid-point reversal all need to be places where decisions are made that can’t be gone back on,” says Angela. “The characters must go forward. If they can easily say ‘actually, you know what Gandalf, I don’t really want to go on an adventure, Hobbiton is still just back down the road, I’m going to get on this cart and go home while you deal with the dragon”… If you can do that easily, there’s no engine in the story.
“Moving forward in the story, particularly in a short story, I often feel it’s like closing gates. Closing gates for your character that they can’t go back through.”
In short: your character needs to have a strong motivation to keep going and you have to close the gates behind them so they can’t go back.
ABOUT THE RECLINER
In a discussion about some of Angela’s most often-repeated advice for emerging writers:
“Let’s talk about setting, and specifically some advice from (author) Jack Danns, who talks about the camera,” says Angela.
“Whenever you start a scene, pretend it’s the camera in a film panning across the room or the town or the map or whatever. What are the important things your scene needs to show the reader to tell them about the setting? Put them in front of that camera.
“Is it a medieval castle? Is it a trailer somewhere in the US? What sort of furniture does it have? Is it an old La-Z-boy – or is it a new La-Z-boy? That choice will tell you things about the people in the story and their location.
“These are the things you need to give to your reader first off, so they know where they are.”
In short: big pictures are built on small details, and setting can show your reader a lot about your character.
WRITING SHORT STORIES
Where do you begin when writing a short story?
“Crisis, choice, and consequence – that’s where your story starts,” says Angela.
In short… well, it doesn’t get much shorter than that.
Of course, this is just a taste of the full and wide-ranging discussion. To watch the replay of the full one-hour Zoom with Angela, or any of our recent WWAT Industry Insider events (including bestselling author Kate Forsyth, bestselling author Natasha Lester, literary agent Annabel Barker, non-fiction publisher (and author) Sophie Hamley, children’s author and former book publicist Ashleigh Barton and many more), join Write With Allison Tait here.
Our next Industry Insider event (on Monday 15 May) will feature bestselling author and former director of Storyfest literary festival Meredith Jaffé.
Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait and you can find out more about me here and more about my online writing courses here. Subscribe to my newsletter for updates, insights and more amazing writing advice.